Coat Check Chicago
Truly, one of my favorite parts about writing this blog is learning the stories of how women’s dreams become a reality. In 2014, Liz William’s favorite winter coat had given out on her. She started looking for a new one and quickly realized that a lot of coats on the market are ‘cheaply made out of crappy fabric’. Liz was looking for something affordable, and didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a ‘designer’ coat. She became very interested in the outerwear market, and began to develop ideas and designs for outerwear that bridged the gap between a $300 and $2000 coat.
Liz showed up to a holiday party in Fulton Market wearing a winter coat she had designed and sewn herself. She handed her coat to the coat attendant and the woman graciously went on and on about how much she loved the design.
The next day Liz discovered a note form the attendant in her coat pocket that simply said, ‘Interested Buyer’. It was just the push she needed to launch the women’s outerwear collection she had been dreaming up and developing for months.
The name she landed on that evening, Coat Check Chicago.
Liz is a mother to 3 children, a costume designer, a teacher in the fashion department at Columbia college, and the owner/designer/creator of Coat Check Chicago. I’m truly inspired by Liz and this impeccable collection of outerwear. It has a vintage feel but is the perfectly tailored modern coat. Every single piece is made ethically right here in Chicago.
I asked Liz a few questions about her background, and the importance of ethically made clothing.
Can you tell me about your experience as a costume designer? How cool is that, btw!
My under-graduate degree was in theatre with an emphasis on costume design so I spent most of my 20's floating around the theatre scene here in Chicago. I was a really fun time in my life where I frequented thrift stores and costume rental houses on a weekly basis. It was also during this time when I honed my sewing and pattern making knowledge while working at some of the larger theatres such as the Goodman and Steppenwolf. I like to tell people that I made everything from penguins to 17th Century gowns... which it true! I worked on such a large variety of shows that I had to be prepared to make anything that was tossed my way.
Can you talk about how Coat Check designs tie into your love of vintage clothing and design?
I am a huge fan of fashion photography from the 1950's and 60's and just love the sculptural lines created by designers such as Balenciaga during that time period. To me, this is the definition of "classic." But at the same time, this time period reminds me of the stories my mom would tell me about when she was a teen and she learned to sew from her mother (my grandmother.) She would tell me these stories as she was teaching me how to sew, so there is a personal sense of nostalgia that come with it. I came to associate this time period with quality and quite honestly when you look at vintage garments, most of the really well-made stuff was made during the 50's and 60's before everything became so automated.
I see that all your coats are ethically made here in Chicago? Tell us why this was important to you?
I spent so much time working as a seamstress and I know from experience that sewing is hard work. It's complicated work, that requires a good brain, great hand-eye coordination, and a ton of patience. For some reason, this work has been de-valued over the years. Most people view it as menial work and therefore assign a low value to it. While this (low value) has been great for consumers when it comes to purchasing clothes, it has come with a cost that I can't stomach. I made the decision fairly early on to pay my sewers good wages and to have my items made in factories where I can see and meet the workers. This (along with the quality materials that I use) keeps my costs high, but at the end of the day I have a product that I am very proud to stand behind.
What is your vision for your business 5 years down the line?
In 5 years, I'd love to be a destination for women seeking well-made, quality coats, that don't go out of style in one season! Hopefully I'm on my way!
These are my favorite pieces from the collection.
This gorgeous Kenzie draped blazer just launched for Fall. Please use code: SHAN15 for 15% off this gorgeous blazer. Available in 4 color ways, including this plaid and admiral blue! Because, Let’s be honest. Every woman deserves a great fitting blazer in her wardrobe.